Five skincare ingredients you should already be using

Beauty and skincare ingredients can read like another language if you don’t know what you’re dealing with, but it is really important to know what different skincare ingredients do so you can choose the products that best benefit your skin and will give the changes, or protection, you’re hoping for.

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Do you know your retinoid from your l-ascorbic acid? How about gluconolactone from niacinamide? No?

Here are the top five skincare ingredients to protect and restore your skin…

1. What is gluconolactone

It is made up of hydroxyls – molecules that attract water – which help to hydrate the skin and protect from loss of moisture. It can also protect from free radicals, so protects from UV rays.

Research into it is still ongoing, but current findings reveal it firms the skin and reduces lines.

Side effects?

None but it is an acid, although a gentle one, so always be cautious and see how your skin reacts. Results will take longer to show.

How do I use it?

Look out for serums that contain it and follow their instructions.

Similar ingredient: Hyaluronic Acid

skincare ingredients

Drew Hayes

2. What is niacinamide

It is a water form of vitamin B3, also known as nicotinic acid. It is something our skin needs but cannot product itself.

Niacinamide restores skin after damage and aging – it can plump lines, reduce pores, even skin tone and texture and combat pigmentation. It also prevents loss or moisture, protects from environmental damage and has antibacterial properties.

Side effects?

Seemingly none.

How do I use it?

It can be used morning and evening, before moisturiser and SPF or as part of it depending on the product. Most will contain around 5 to 10 per cent.

3. What is retinol

Retinol is derivative of vitamin A (known for immune system boosting properties as well as health skin, bones and vision). It reduces wrinkles, acne and pigmentation – making the face smoother and firmer.

The body turns retinol acidic, this stimulates the cells and encourages renewal as well as the production of collagen and elastin.

Side effects?

There is evidence that overuse, or using strengths that are too high, can thin the skin. If you apply properly, however, it will thicken the skin and make it more youthful.

It can also increase photosensitivity, so best to use at night and with SPF usage.

How do I use it?

Start using it in your 20s, just once a week. You can gradually increase this overtime as your skin adapts, otherwise it can cause irritation.

You should have three months on and three months off, as research shows it is only effective for this amount of time.

If using other acidic products, make sure to check they can be used together.

4. What is L-ascorbic acid

This is the term for pure vitamin C. It is a powerful anti-oxidant that can reduce sun damage, stimulate collagen and is most famous for brightening your complexion.

You will sometime hear people talking of Kakadu Plum (aka Gubinge, Billygoat or Murunga), which is an Australian fruit containing 100 times more vitamin C than oranges.

Side effects?

It doesn’t go well with dry skin and should be used in a low dosage – products should have no more than 20 per cent and try to keep the pH level below 3.5.

Over usage will irritate the skin and can make it look older.

How do I use it?

It can be used at night, but is best used in the morning. It is very popular, so can now be found in face creams. Otherwise, get some Vitamin C serum and apply before moisturiser.

5. What are AHA vs BHAs

Alpha and beta hydroxy acids include some you may have heard of such as salicylic acid and lactic acid. They are good for treating spots and acne, as the acid dries the skin causing the very top layer to peel off (this isn’t visible). They may cause tingling so beware if you have sensitive skin – use at night and make sure to being using SPF daily.

Side effects?

As with many of these acidic products, don’t dive into everyday use but build up to it.

How do I use it?

It depends on the product. You can use it as part of your cleansing routine, or as an overnight treatment.

William Rouse


I guess I don’t need to explain what it is, but let me tell you why it is so important.

The British Association of Dermatologists recommend always using a minimum of SPF 30, which blocks 97 per cent of UVB. I have fair, freckly skin and I was advised by a specialist to wear SPF 50 every single day, even during the winter.

UVA penetrates deep into the skin, doing damage that cannot be seen straight away but it will come to light in time. UVB rays are shorter, these are what burn the skin.

Over time sun damage causes skin to look dull, lose firmness, wrinkles will develop and skin may even lose colouring or softness. Pigmentation will develop underneath and make its way to the surface, e.g. freckles and dark patches.

Much of the damage cannot be seen straight away, but shows in time, so SPF should be used daily from your 20s.

How do I use it?

SPF should be applied after your moisturiser and before make up. Of course you can use it as a moisturiser, and you can also use it in your make up. I would advise both. At the moment I use this cream and this primer.

See more beauty or more health features.


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